By Shpresa Ymeraj
I immersed into the light afternoon traffic Sunday, September 19th, ready to be absorbed by the serene woods of Widener’s Taylor Arboretum, where Lovers and Madmen: the adaptation of Shakespeare’s Visions of a Midsummer Night’s Dream played; A production of Widener’s Lone Brick Theatre & Forgotten Lore Theatre, as part of 2021 Philly Fringe Festival. Once there, an “air spirit” led me to the scene. The sun beaming through the opening trees spot-lit Theseus, the Duke of Athens. Possessing his future bride from under her arms and knees, he upheld her, spinning for the round spectator view.
The young lovers chased and danced with one another, coming and going through the narrow paths between the woods. Swiftly I am pulled in to scene by the play producer and director himself, Peter Quince, filling in for Snug, the lion. Surprised, I may have tried to roar. The audience led by Fairies into different scenes, thus experiencing separate ongoing parts of the play, moving through the enchanted woods, often burst into laughs when the “ghostly” presence of Hermia running after Lysander and Helena after Demetrius and Demetrius after Hermia cut through the scenes with beaming screams: “Demetriuuuus!”, “Lysandeeeer!”,”Helenaaaa!”.
While woodland, Victorian, and contemporary costumes composed a lovely theme, the play within the play Peter Quince led followed a similar pattern. For example, between script and under-toned “out of script” remarks, about Theseus, in the closing scene directed to the audience: “What is wrong with this guy?” Quince’s character brought the contemporary spectator in, sparking a comedic blast throughout the play.
Nick Bottom steals the show ending with his passion-full interpretation and the tragically funny self-inflicted death, as Theseus dressed in a dark business suit *lols the play, within the play. The spectators love it! They laugh and whistle, filling the air with cheers. Fully immersed in the new Midsummer Night’s world, I applaud the amazing actors and producers of this memorable play, compete with colorful vibrations the leaves changing over a well-hidden water stream where perhaps Shakespeare’s spirit currents through Tayler Arboretum.